A few months ago, I had written about Scythe. I still firmly believe it was one of the best games of 2016 and even possibly for 2017. Any time my friends bring this game out, I always want to take the opportunity to play it. So why am I bringing this game up again?
Well originally Scythe was a Kickstarter that made over 1.5 million dollars, and it wasn’t a game that I was really looking into too much. As much as you try to keep up with the dozens of games that come out each month, I’ll admit, there are some that you just turn a blind eye to. This unfortunately means that you regret not making certain purchases, Scythe being one of them. I am determined that if a game like that comes around again on Kickstarter, I’m not going to miss out on an opportunity to purchase it.
Fast forward to about a month ago. A friend of mine, Mike, who I’d like to think is a connoisseur of Kickstarter, tells me about a game called “Rising Sun”. He best described it as Blood Rage, but with a Japanese theme to it. I didn’t really think about it too much, but then I thought about how I didn’t purchase Scythe and so I figured, maybe I should take a closer look at this Kickstarter. Turns out that this game had already made over 3 million dollars, and had a ton of unlockables already earned by the backers.
Consumerism got the best of me. I didn’t want to miss out on this. I liked Blood Rage. I have liked some of Eric Lang’s other works too including Quarriors and XCom. So as the meme goes, “Shut up and take my money!”
Rising Sun is a political/war game created by Eric Lang. You lead one of five Japanese clans (the Koi, Dragonfly, Bonsai, Lotus, or Turtle Clan), each with its own special abilities, and set of detailed miniatures representing Daimyo, Shinto, and Bushi units. Players will place these units in various areas of a Feudal Japan map in order to reap the benefits of the land. Players will also use their Shinto warriors to climb the mountains and worship Japanese gods, known as Kami. Each of these gods have a special ability that will help you get more resources.
In the game there are three phases in a season. The first phase is the tea ceremony, where players can align with another in order to gain unique bonuses whenever your ally takes certain actions. This is done by matching one clan’s yin-yang half with another’s.
The second phase is the political phase where players choose from a selection of political mandates that every player performs. The actions you get out of the mandate is dependent on your alliances:
- Recruit: Players can put new units on their strongholds. The current player and their ally also get to put an additional stronghold on the board.
- Marshal: Players can move units on the map from one territory to another. The current player and their ally can also build a stronghold by spending coins.
- Train: Players can upgrade their units with season cards that they can buy using coins they have earned throughout the game. This includes hiring powerful monsters, or getting bonuses. The current player and their ally also gets a discount when purchasing these bonuses.
- Harvest: Players gain coins, while the current player and their ally get the bonuses found on the provinces.
- Betray: Players deliberately break their alliance in order to earn new troops from the player they betrayed. However, by doing this you become more dishonourable, and your honour token moves down on the track.
On that note, throughout the game honour can change based on certain actions that are taken on by players. Generally speaking, if there is a tie during battles or certain conflicts, honor breaks the tie. However, there are some advantages for being the most dishonourable, such as getting some cool in-game bonuses.
The last phase is the war phase. Each territory is contested and the one with the most strength in each land will take over the territory and earn victory points. These strengths can be altered when the battles are resolved. This is done by placing coins on their own personal battle tile that have four different actions. The player that bids the most on the action gets to complete it. These actions on the tile are :
- Seppuku: This action is an honourable self-sacrificial move in which all characters in the province are destroyed. Doing this gives the player one victory point for each character that was killed, as well as move their honour token higher on the track.
- Take hostage: This action lets you take one of your opponent’s figures off the board and steal one victory point from your opponent. Also, at the beginning of the round, you return their figure to them and gain one coin.
- Hire Ronin: This action lets you place additional ronin tokens on the province to increase your battle strength by 1 for every token you place.
- Imperial Poets: This action basically lets poets sing your praises for dying in battle. For every character that was killed during the battle, they gain one point.
After four seasons, the player who has the most victory points wins the game.
This review for Rising Sun isn’t like many of the reviews that I’ve done in the past because I’m currently speculating how this game is played based on the mechanics I’ve read up on Kickstarter as well as watching the gameplay video that was provided. Here are some of the things that I’m liking about Rising Sun:
The components and artwork are phenomenal. The miniatures that Rising Sun is providing are stunning and highly detailed. You have to assume that there’s a ton of work going on in the design of these components, especially when each faction has their own unique set of units, as well as the various Kami, and monster figurines that are available in the game. The artwork on the board and cards are very fitting for the Japanese theme; it features the typical Japanese calligraphy, and beautifully crafted brush stroke pictures giving this feeling that you are in Feudal Japan.
Some of my favourite game mechanics are found in Rising Sun. Let’s start first with the political phase where you are determining what every player does given a set of political mandates. This reminds of me of the job selection mechanic in Puerto Rico. This mechanic means that certain players will gain the maximum benefit in the game only if certain actions are done in a specific order. This creates a lot of conflict between players because their victory points may be dependent on how others play these political mandates. In addition, aligning with another player gives you more actions to work with, so if your partner has similar goals in that round, it would be of your best interest to join up with someone else to gain more. I also appreciate the bidding mechanic during the War Phase. It reminds me of games such as Revolution, Roll for the Galaxy, or Isle of Skye, where players put game components secretly on a board. It is this mechanic that promotes the speculation, the negotiation, and the bluffing that Rising Sun thrives on.
Rising Sun creates a lot of socialization between players. As I mentioned in the introduction, Rising Sun is a political game. This means that you will have to cut deals, bribe, align with others, and make promises in order to progress further. However, the game explicitly states that these deals are not binding and you are free to break ties with other players in order to get further. This is expected when one of the political mandates is called “Betray”. While this mechanic creates a lot of stress and anxiety for me, just because you’re never too sure to trust certain people, I consider Rising Sun to be a highly social game.
The one thing I’m wondering about is how this game scales. Since there is an alliance mechanism built into the game, a three or five player game would guarantee at least one person not be in an alliance. I’m curious to see how this plays out, especially if this player gets shunned throughout the entire game. It is possible for that player to still win even if they aren’t in an alliance?
Now, sadly, the Kickstarter Campaign has ended, but they do have a link on the Kickstarter for late pledges so if you are still interested in purchasing this game, you still might be able to join the bandwagon. Rising Sun is estimated to come out in April 2018, but it is definitely worth the wait for a game of this caliber. Click this link if you want to see the Kickstarter Page.